Staying true to the spirit of Oddcast I wanted to post my thoughts on Ray Bradbury’s recent passing. Although we are a comedy nerd podcast, the passing of this great Sci-fi writer is worth taking a moment of reflection in honor of sci-fi fans everywhere. So here is a little essay I wrote up about my personal experience with Bradbury’s work:
Most of you who know me know that Ray Bradbury was a personal hero of mine and I attribute much of what I write and who I am today to Bradbury’s influence. This little write up is probably going to come off as very sentimental but I don’t mind because the man himself often was, at least about things that mattered – like books and imagination. I encountered Bradbury my Freshman year of high school after reading an excerpt of his book Dandelion Wine in an English class. I never knew that excerpt would change my life. I loved the piece and so I went to the library and checked out the whole book, although I was confused because the excerpt was suspenseful and thrilling and the back of the book described it as a child’s magical summer in Illinois…not what I would call exciting. Nevertheless, I took a look. Dandelion Wine, to this day, remains the most beautiful prose I have ever read. I had never read anything like it, and still haven’t.
One of my favorite passages from the book (among so many it’d be absurd to share them all) is a story of the main character and his friend who is about to move out of town. The two develop a plan to stop time and the way they do it is simply by lying in the grass on a beautiful summer day in small town America and doing nothing at all. It’s so simple yet so effective and it makes you wish more than anything you had stopped time more often as a kid and just lazed around with someone you cared about for a day. And in that I found Bradbury would be, for me, an infinite source of wisdom about how to live life in and out of the arts.
I couldn’t begin to list all the things I learned from reading his novels and short stories. I think what breaks my heart about his passing is thinking of all the times his words were part of my life. Bradbury’s stories were with me on long road trips, on lonely nights in my room, in so many early essays (I don’t even know how many times I wrote about him and his work throughout high school), and throughout college when I insisted friends read his work or even a time I remember reading his story The Exiles out loud to some friends one night.
Bradbury made me believe in the power of words and imagination like no one ever has or probably ever will. He taught me the importance of libraries (like his characters learn in Something Wicked This Way Comes when the only solace to be found in a cruel world is among books), he taught me how easy it is to take readers to space (you simply tell us we’re on a rocket ship in space, we’ll take care of the rest), he showed me the importance of my background coming from rural PA (like so many of his stories that make porch swings and lemonade seem beautiful and every childhood summer worth remembering fondly).
No one can deny Bradbury was one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. He’s influenced so many writers in the genre (especially Neil Gaiman who has been writing a lot about Bradbury as well since his passing.) I have read so many anecdotes about Bradbury from how he proposed to his wife (by asking her if she’d come to mars with him) to how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 on dime an hour typewriters in the basement of the library at UCLA. Bradbury was prolific writer of stories, novels, poetry, plays, and screenplays.
There’s a really famous story Bradbury told about when he started writing. He was 12 years old and a carnival come to town. He was fascinated by it and at one of the sideshows a man with an “electric sword” called him out of the crowd. He touched the sword to Bradbury’s shoulder and declared, “You shall live forever.” That day Bradbury asked his father for a typewriter and he wrote every day for the next 70 some years. Now it’s hard to say how much of this is legend now and how much is truth but it’s a story he told and I’m inclined to believe it. Mostly because the man’s prophesy came true, Bradbury will live forever. In the hearts and minds of anyone who reads his work. I plan on continuing to recommend his work to anyone who hasn’t read his writing for the rest of my life.
Thank you Mr. Bradbury for making me who I am today. I write because of you. I believe in the power of stories because of you. And to me, you will forever be the boy with unlimited imagination running barefoot at top speed through the beautiful green grass of Greentown, Illinois. Rest In Peace.